An Intimate Picture Of A Most Public Hemingway


The Hemingway Patrols – Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-Boats, by Terry Mort

The missus, ever on the lookout for book about Papa for me, found this one and surprised me with it. It shouldn’t surprise readers of my posts that Hemingway has influenced me as a writer. He lived a legendary life that’s still full of Papa’s bullshit stories, mischaracterizations, and false claims, and books such as this one work to sort truth from, well, fiction, where Hemingway is concerned.

The book was published by Scribner, and I suspect they either recruited Mort to write this book, of they were excited that he wanted to write it and no doubt gave him access to people and papers that only Scribner would have. But to the book.



Hemingway was part of a civilian volunteer force in the early 1940s that patrolled for German submarines. There’s very little hard information available about his patrols; he kept a poor ship’s log and he saw no subs. Too, the FBI kept a watchful eye on him because of his anti-fascist stance (which the little creep, J. Edgar Hoover, interpreted as pro-communist). So the approach Mort took here was to delve into Hemingway’s personal life and his writing during these years.

Hemingway was married to the attractive and combustible Martha Gellhorn at this time, and their marriage was less than ideal – they were both strong personalities and they competed as writers. Mort, a former Navy man, gives a lot of details about German subs operating in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico – how dangerous they were, how difficult to detect and attack. And, of course, parallel, surface ship experiences of Hemingway’s found their way into this book. Hemingway did search faithfully, did receive Navy help, and made much literary hay of these failed searches in Islands in the Stream and The Old Man and the Sea.

It’s a fine, well researched book, the prose a bit uneven at times, but if you’re interested in the Hemingway era at all, you’ll find that Mort has done yeoman’s work in sifting intimate facts from Papa-induced legends regarding the WWII years of Hemingway’s life.


My rating: 16 of 20 stars



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Ernest Hemingway never seems to leave the public consciousness, particularly as a cultural icon. HBO's movie on his tempestuous marriage to Martha Gellhorn will be shown beginning at the end of May, and this piece on Martha might help whet your appetite.

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